Divers retrieve century-old beer bottles

Beer bottles

By Sara Janiszewska - Sunderland Magazine

One-hundred-and-twenty-year-old bottles of beer have helped provide insights into the make-up of ancient ales.

Research from Brewlab and the University of Sunderland has retrieved live brewing yeasts from century-old bottles of beer to provide detailed information on the microbiology of lost Victorian and Edwardian stock ales.

Three bottles were retrieved by divers of Global Underwater Explorers from the shipwrecked vessel Wallachia which sank after a collision in the Clyde estuary in 1895. The ship carried a mixed cargo including whisky and beer from the McEwan’s brewery in Glasgow.

Two additional bottles were from the Bass brewery in Burton upon Trent and contained a 1902 10% ABV barley wine brewed for a visit by King Edward VII. Both beers represent examples of the stock ales commonly reputed as the best of British brewing due to their complex yeast character, high alcohol levels, and long maturation.

The study, published in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing, analysed microbial DNA in the bottles by next-generation sequencing, identifying the yeasts and bacteria initially present.

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